How Not To Take Things Personally. Your Guide To Managing Your Emotions.

Understanding and owning your emotional experience is key to staying grounded in a variety of relationship patterns. From getting swept away with actions that may not be best for you to getting in fights and prematurely (or waiting too long) to end relationships, understanding impact and influence versus handing over your emotional power is key. Many of us avoid feeling our vulnerability in relationships by blaming the other person for “making me feel this way” instead of taking our power back and recognizing our control in our responses. The fears of being hurt and the feelings of vulnerability associated with disempowerment are scary. It is natural to work on avoiding them. However, if you can take ownership of your emotional responsibility and own your role in your feelings you do not have to fear hurt and vulnerability.

I meet with a lot of people who feel that it is someone else’s responsibility to make them happy. They are easily knocked off course when negative things happen because they have put their emotional experience in another’s hands. They often feel out of control and play games in relationships – “I’ll hurt you before you hurt me” kind of mentalities. Getting hurt is a matter of life. We love people and they leave us. We want something and we do not get it. We work really hard and we still fail. We want to feel good enough, but we don’t. In each of these situations, acceptance is the key to navigating the difficult emotions. By accepting what is in this moment just as it is we have an opportunity to objectively examine what is happening. From this place, we can determine what worked, what did not and where we can learn more about what to do next for a better chance at success. 

Understanding Impact and Influence

We are not responsible for another’s feelings. This means I cannot make you mad, happy or sad. And you cannot make me mad, happy or sad. We cannot “make someone feel something”. They are 100% responsible for their feelings and actions. I am completely in control of my emotional experiences and you are in control of yours. Many want to feel the good sensations that come from “making someone happy” and work to avoid feelings of “I made you sad”. In reality, you did neither. You cannot make someone happy or sad because you cannot control how they are internally reacting to your actions. I have no control over how you experience what I say. I might be able to influence you but I cannot control you. Your experience of what I do gets filtered through your past experiences and is based on how you are feeling at a particular moment. I cannot control if you are hungry, annoyed with something else or overwhelmed by another situation. Therefore I cannot control how you will receive my actions (actions include statements, behaviors, and even emotions). As a result, I cannot control how you will react to me.   

In our relationships, we often “take things personally” when the other person does something that impacts us. As I am impacted I have a reaction. I may feel sad, hurt or angry. This response may be based on similar past experiences. My reaction to another’s action(s) may be based on an expectation I had about the situation. When I am impacted it is hard to remember that what they do is about who they are, not about me. How they speak to me, the words they use, the actions they do are all about how they orient to the world. I am only responsible for how I orient to the world and how I react. I am in control of my emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. 

What other people do and say reflects the experiences of the other person. However, we tend to interpret what they do as a reflection of us. This misguided interpretation leaves us dealing with our own core wounds and struggles. We feel unsafe, unheard, negated, less than, etc rather than full in our experience of being. As a result of the negative impact, we are experiencing we respond as though what is happening is happening to us rather than just impacting us at the moment. We control our response to everything that impacts us and do not have to be knocked off a positive track just because we were negatively impacted by someone else’s behaviors. 

What to focus on so you don’t take people’s actions personally

To help ourselves maintain focus on our goals we need to be able to recognize what is happening. When we slow down and recognize that their actions are about them we can take control of our reaction. We recognize we can feel our full selves just because we exist. We no longer need anyone else to tell us otherwise. We can embrace our full experience and decide how to deal with it – especially when we do not like it. 

In order to do this well, we have to be willing to take responsibility for our own experience and our own actions. You have to decide how you want to be in the world. What are your goals for your experiences, expectations for yourself and what do you want to accomplish? We have to look at how we speak to others, the word choices we use, the body language we project, and the actions we do or do not do. We have to take ownership of how we have hurt others. We have to notice when we are triggered back to early wounds and experiences that hurt us so we do not perpetuate the hurt. And we have to take responsibility for our own healing. This is hard work. Many people want to say – “there is nothing wrong with me, it’s so and so’s fault. I am fine and good and right”. This way we protect ourselves from our own experiences of feeling less than. 

Healing

If we can take responsibility for our own experiences we can determine how to heal them. We can take our power back and find ourselves strong in our sense of worth. We can embrace being good enough, smart enough, wanted, needed, etc. We can own our individual gifts while allowing others to own theirs. We do not need to tear them down so we feel big anymore. We can allow them to be who they are, doing what they do without getting caught in our own story, old hurts and core wounds. We can choose to set boundaries, choose to engage with them or not. We can decide how we want to react and who we want to be without worry about what anyone else is doing. 

Easier said than done, I know. One way to make sure you are moving in a positive direction is by helping yourself focus on what you can do. Find a daily routine that helps you feel grounded. Maybe it is a morning meditation, reading, and reflection or movement plan. Your job is to focus on what you want, your goals for your future, and what helps keep you moving toward them. It might be building new behaviors or letting go of old ones. Sometimes actions needed will be clear and other times it will not be clear. Sometimes this will be small and sometimes it will be big changes in your life. 

Your job is to stop and pay attention to you. What do you need in this moment? What do you need to do right now – not what you want the other person to do, or say or be. What would help you take care of you? Put your attention where you want it to go … on creating the life you want to live. 

Ready to Make a Change?

And as always, if you are struggling you can schedule a 15 min Q&A appointment to see if it’s time to give yourself the gift of therapy. When else can you talk about yourself for an hour with someone trained to deeply listen to your core, not just the story you tell yourself. 

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Understanding all the ways we communicate. We are just chemical, electrical, and vibrational little beings

In my undergraduate studies there was a moment in time when I was a communication major. In the end I graduated with a bachelor of science in exercise science and a minor in business and communication studies. You are probably pretty familiar with the “regular” ways we communicate i.e. talking and body posture. Did you know that communication is mostly non-verbal? And that we as mammals can understand and pick up subtle nuances based on somatic markers? These somatic markers are based on the chemical, electrical, and vibrational communication patterns our cells and atoms use to communicate to each other.

It all starts with slime mold (see video below, it’s old but good). This is the stuff all living things are made of. From single celled organism, life evolved to have specialized cells. Bring together enough specialized cellular structures and you have … a human. To make the human system work, you have to have communication between all those specialized groups. This communication is done using chemical, electrical, and vibrational patterns. 

Human Chemistry 

Chemical is probably the easiest to conceptualize. Most of us in the therapy field have a basic understanding of how neurotransmitters and hormones play a role in mental and physical health. Most of us know that dopamine is connected to pleasure, serotonin to depression and contentment, and GABA to anxiety states. Many of us understand that estrogen and testosterone play a role in our ability to connect and assert ourselves. Lots of us understand that many of these shift and change based on the environment. 

Diet plays a huge role here. The body is an amazing system that can make what it needs and recycle or eliminate what it doesn’t. We use food, the sun, and nature to help us develop and synthesize the neurotransmitters we need from the nutrients, vitamins, and phytochemicals we are exposed to. Biology also plays a huge role here. We often consider genes of ancestry to understand our physical structure functions. 

Overall, chemical communication is fairly slow. The hormones and neurotransmitters have to get into the blood stream, enter the synapsis, hook up with other chemicals, and “dock” for uptake to keep the system going (Fields & Stevens-Graham, 2002). This is a lot of steps. The endocrine system and nervous systems use chemical patterns and electrical signaling to communicate between specialized cells.

Understanding electricity

Electrical patterns are faster and extend out beyond the physical system (Brian & Lamb, 2014). As a result, this kind of communication can be “read” by other electrical systems. When you have one electrical system next to another and they share the same frequency they create a larger field around the electrical objects. The heart works on electrical signals and is the “battery” of the human body. As your heart rate changes, it impacts the field around you. If you are in connection with another mammal and your electrical fields are similar, you will create deeper connection by collapsing the wall between you and create a larger field that both are part of (Tozz, 2014). Ever sat at the coffee shop and watched people connecting in conversation? Those who are deeply connected appear to “be in their own bubble” or we get the feeling that they are oblivious to the outside world. Maybe you’ve even had this experience yourself. 

Let’s talk about heart rate variability. If you can influence your heart rate (electricity) and shift your nervous system (chemistry) and your electrical pattern moves beyond your physical body you are now influencing others near you. As the clinician you can work to regulate your clients by slowing your breath rate, shifting your heart rate, and calming your nervous system. Just like a parent does a child. Your most important therapy tool … your body. If you are working to calm yourself or others, work to slow your breathing and shift your heart rate to a slower signal. POST HRV Email on my therapist blog site.

Vibrational Waves

Humans, like all things, are made of molecular structure. Molecular structure is made of atoms. Atoms are tiny parts of matter that vibrate. Is high school physics coming back to you? When things vibrate they send out ripples. In humans these ripples extend beyond the physical structure. Just like water ripples out from the point of the dropped stone. As a result we “read” each other based on our “vibes”. You know the sayings … “that guy has bad vibes” or “I really felt good around her”. When our vibrations are similar we feel better, we “resonate” with the other person. When we do not resonate with the other person we often find ourselves feeling unease or “off”. We influence our vibrational patterns by shifting our focus points and influencing the physical structures around them (Trivedi & Mohan, 2016). Waves, like electricity will enhance or cancel each other based on how they match up when they meet. This is the communication we are experiencing between two human bodies. 

When we talk about these deeper, subconscious ways humans communicate we would be remiss if we did not speak to the need for boundaries. For many of us we have physical boundaries – my chair, my office, clothing, home etc. We also have professional, ethical, and other mental / thought based boundaries around our activities, but have you thought about your energetic ones? Now that you understand how we communicate beyond the physical structure what are the ways you create energetic boundaries for success and safe connection in your life?

Now that you have an understanding of ways we communicate how will you shift your personal practices to make sure you are taking care of your own chemical, electrical, and vibrational communication influencers? What will you do to make sure you are prepared and ready to communicate in these somatic ways that allow a deeper and subconscious connection? How will you boundary yourself to make sure you are taking care of yourself?

Embrace the power of your soma to impact and influence others – both in traditional verbal / non verbal communication tactics, but also with the more subtle and powerful subconscious ways humans communicate in their environments. Give it a try today and let me know how it goes. 

References: 

Fields, R. D., Stevens-Graham, B. (2002). New insights into neuron-gila communication. Science, 298(5593). 556-562

Brian, M., Lamb, R. (2014). How electricity works. How Stuff Works. http://www.presentationexpressions.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Yulchon-Howstuffworks-

Tozz, P. (2014). Does fascia hold memories. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 18, 259e-265. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.11.010  

Trivedi, M. K., & Mohan, T. R. R. (2016). Biofield energy signals, energy transmission and neutrinos. American Journal of Modern Physics. 5(6),172-176. doi: 10.11648/j.ajmp.20160506.12 

Spiritual Sunday: Communicating with something larger than yourself

Good communication begins with us. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and build a strong sense of self that doesn’t fear differences. This allows others and ourselves to show up authentically without feeling judged, attacked, or invalidated just because someone has a different opinion. Very difficult, but worth the try.

For us to be really good at communicating with other people we must be able to communicate well with ourselves. We need to have a strong grounding in our own values, viewpoints, and opinions and a strong sense of self. These allow us to stand tall in our own truth while allowing others to stand tall in their own. To build this strength it is important to cultivate practices that allow for reflection and communication with something larger than ourselves. 

The concept of something larger than ourselves exists in many paradigms and practices. These range from ideas related to spirit, the earth/nature, to the psychology of how mammals communicate somatically. In the end it does not matter what you chose as your paradigm of existence. 

What matters is how you cultivate your practices to maintain connection to something larger than yourself. What matters is that you recognize that we are all connected and how you act in your private life influences other humans and other systems (like water supplies for example). What matters is understanding that there is a shared aspect to everything we do. By taking time to recognize our connections to something larger than ourselves we relate better to those around us. 

When we are better able to relate to those around us, the environment we are in, and be open to the differences between us we are more grounded in ourselves and less susceptible to the vulnerability created when someone has a different opinion, value, or viewpoint than we do. This creates easier conversations and more effective communication for everyone, thus creating more acceptance, less judgment, and more openness to those around us. It also helps create a sense of responsibility for our personal role in helping to create a healthy, vibrant, and just society. 

Friday Flow: Road Trip Conversations

Ever had that road trip where all you heard was “how much longer”? Today work on flipping how you interact in the car. Use this time to connect and get to know each other better.

I’m road trippin’ today in one of my many forays following my kids (or taxiing them) around for sporting events. We are working to beat the next snow storm headed into the Rockies. Since we are on the topic of communication this week, let’s talk about the beauty of being present to people in the car with you, because that is not always easy.

There is something pretty special about these private spaces for developing relationship and working through aspects of personal communication, building deeper knowledge of each other, and finding new music to jam to in between random topics that arise as a result of exploring the world from behind a windshield. Here are some of the fun topics that have arisen within my vehicle as the miles pass by:

  • What beef jerky is the best & why
  • Books we are currently reading
  • Levels of snowfall
  • Tiny homes
  • Salt lakes
  • Music choices
  • Work tasks
  • Dinner options 
  • Finding friends
  • Places to visit when the kids move out
  • Ways to do said travel – RVs vs Camper Vans vs Air BnB, & which countries
  • The benefits of shaving with shaving cream
  • And … How much tea is left & where to get more ice

Of course you can always engage in a variety of other road trip activities. I’ve scrapbooked, we’ve enjoyed a variety of movies, coloring, playing I Spy, and my personal favorite … the license plate game. One time I got all but one state. That was a long ride and quite the accomplishment … I still hold the family title, and I do not think they’ll ever beat me.

3 Ways to Make it Through Difficult Conversations

Struggle to make it through difficult conversations? Here are 3 ways to make it through a difficult conversation with ease.

So with this week’s theme being communication AND our political pundits all over the snippets of communication between our highest leaders, it is worth a comment or two on how we can make our communication effective even in difficult situations. 

First, remember it is ok to disagree.

Just because someone does not agree with you does not make them wrong and you right … or … them right and you wrong. Many people get stuck here because of personal values and past experiences. We have strong feelings about our values, however the space between right and wrong is very wide. Nearly every point can be argued from different angles. If one can stay with the argument long enough, without feeling judged to really hear the other side, they often find themselves with more understanding. This understanding allows us to connect with others and our own communities. Acceptance is key here. This means you accept what is really going on in the moment. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, want it, or approve of it. Just face it with honesty and openness, that this is really what is going on right now, right here. 

Second, The idea is not to convince the other person that you are right.

It is to be effective. Many struggle with this one, too. The idea that no one is right or wrong is discombobulating to some. It means that each of our opinions have value, even if we do not agree. See #1 above. The truth is, yes, both views have value and are somewhat right in their own respective. 

Now some may say “WHAAAAAT, some view points are just wrong, evil, and unjust”, but the truth of the matter is every view point comes from some past experience. It may not be lived experience, rather cultural learned and passed down values and viewpoints, but it comes from somewhere. At one point that viewpoint served a purpose to survive an environment. We might say that some of those environments are not the kind of world we want to live in, be a part of, or feel move humanity forward, but they are there due to some reason. And remember you do not have to agree with it, like it, want it, or approve of it, all you have to do is accept that this is what is right now. 

When you hold that openness, it gets easier to work on discourse without the need to be right. A solid model for working with difficult issues is to scale each participant on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 and 5 being extreme opposites of a viewpoint. The goal in conversation is not to bring the other participant to your number, it is just to shift them 1 up or down. 

To do that you must be willing to listen. I mean really listen. You must be willing to hear them out and attempt to empathize. Again, this does not mean you agree, just that you can see where they are coming from and why? Without forming your rebuttal (to win).

The reason this is so hard is … in order to really listen and empathize you have to make yourself vulnerable to their ideas. As a result you might find your view also changes some. Most of us do not like this idea, so we dig our heels in and tighten our own view in order to mitigate the potential that we will be vulnerable to someone else’s differing ideas.

The very nature of being vulnerable is to have the courage to open up and allow myself to be influenced by you – from research done by Brené Brown. 

From Brené Brown’s research on Shame & Vulnerability

Third, remember it is about conversation not conflict.

I love this quote I got from my friend Elizabeth while we were leading a therapy group on interpersonal communication. Keeping the focus on conversation helps you stay present to conflict when it arises and the uncomfortable (or exciting) feelings it can bring. 

As you recognize your physical sensation changes you can decide to take a break from the topic for a bit, move physically, or distract yourself in some way for a bit. This allows you both to stay present to the conversation however not tip over into argument and other difficulties, like ghosting because you do not want to deal with a difficult topic. By focusing on conversation as the goal, tone of voice, body language, and eye contact can all be manipulated to keep escalations at bay and breaks can be had as needed to stay focused on your goals. 

Increase Your Skills By …

In the end, the more exposed you can be to differing view points, different cultures, and different experiences the easier the above steps are. Our personal communities have shrunk because we can more effortlessly control who we are exposed to and it has become harder to feel more empathy for differing people. As a result of our self selection (and the brilliance of advertisers marketing to us based on our preferences) we can live in a bubble where everyone we know and most of what we see are people who look like, think like, appreciate, and honor the same things we do making it harder to give value to another point of view. 

Today see if you can work on allowing yourself to open up to something different than your normal view point. See if you can listen just a minute longer to the pundit, channel, radio show host, the guy across the table, or person on the street speaking different ideas, concepts, and values from what you believe to be true and worthy in the world.